Statement from Wat Pa Nanachat

As a companion to the previous post on the official WPP statement regarding Ajahn Brahm’s expulsion, the Forest Sangha website gives a statement from Wat Pah Nanachat. It was presumably authored with the abbot, Ajahn Kevali. He’s been a stalwart of the anti-bhikkhuni movement, who once told me that no Theravadin monk would ever support bhikkhuni ordination.

Here, however, the message begins with a compassionate acknowledgement of the suffering of women, their special contribution to maintaining Buddhism, acknowledgement of the historical injustice of discrimination in the Sangha, and the urgent need to provide a meaningful opportunity for women to practice that is founded on the authentic principles of the Dhamma-Vinaya. Oops, what was I thinking! That must have been a transmission from a parallel universe. Here’s the real message.

I’ll upload it as a pdf in case the link breaks.

Report from Wat Nanachat

There, I hope you’ve had a read. Check out the language of the first paragraph: ‘entails’, ‘authority’, ‘governing’, ‘laws’, ‘bound’, ‘Thai State’. What do you reckon this is all really about: compassion or power?

The letter starts out by saying that WPP monks are expected to obey the Mahatherasamakhom. Let’s inject a little reality here. In my five years as a monk in Thailand, I was never told this. We knew nothing of the Mahatherasamakhom. If WPP wants to make this a rule, good on them, but they are obliged to inform their students before taking ordination.

And again, what rules? How are we to know what they are? Any legitimate organization must make available to its members the laws that it expects them to follow. Just ask any WPP monk what the rules of the Mahatherasamakhom are, and see what he says. I can guarantee you he will know nothing.

Have you read Kafka’s The Trial? It’s worth a look.

The post, somewhat strangely, criticizes Ajahn Brahm for having weak links to the Thai Sangha. This is irrelevant, and incidentally untrue. The statement was later reworded to acknowledge this. Anyone familiar with the WPP scene would know that many of the Western Ajahns almost never visit Thailand, while Ajahn Brahm goes every year, and indeed Ajahn Khampong spent vassa at Bodhinyana just last year. But it does hint as to the concerns of the authors: everything must be the Thai way, and anything else is heretical.

The letter goes on to say:

For most of the Wat Pa Phong theras, the intellectual argument over the validity of bhikkhuni ordination is not the point.

Well, at least we’re agreed there. To decode this, you need to know that ‘intellectual’ is a WPP code word for ‘conceited, attached to self-views, thinks too much’. One would imagine that taking the time to educate and inform oneself might be a good idea before making a major decision, but at WPP they can just breeze right past that bit. Remember that, for all the rhetoric of ‘respect’ and ‘consultation’, WPP passed several rulings against bhikkhuni ordination without consulting Ajahn Brahm or anyone else interested in the issue, and without the slightest knowledge of what is happening in the wider Buddhist sphere.

We are asked in the final paragraph whether this ordination will be seen as a breakthrough for the bhikkhuni order, or whether it will alienate ‘many of those who it was intended to persuade’. The ordination was not done in order to persuade anyone. It was a group of mature, educated, and sincere Sangha performing a normal act of Sanghakamma as laid down in the Vinaya to further the spiritual aspirations of a sincere group of women.

Finally, I would like to once more ask you to consider the question of the WAM, and why the ordination was done beforehand. Let us use a little reason. How does reason work? Well, you take the ‘facts’, that is, information learned from the past, and you put them on the table. You consider those facts, and see what can be inferred from them.

In this case, the facts are that every time the question of bhikkhuni ordination has been formally raised in WPP circles, it has been totally squashed, without any discussion, consultation, or inquiry. Another little fact is that the upcoming discussion of bhikkhunis at the WAM was originally proposed by Ajahn Kevali, whose attitude to bhikkhunis I have already mentioned above. A final fact is that, while this was going on, the English Sangha was imposing the Five Points that deny any possibility of bhikkhuni ordination to the English siladharas.

Try taking these facts and making any kind of reasonable inference from them. We’ve heard of possible ‘honorable’ outcomes from the WAM, but these are sheer imagination. There’s no telling what would have actually happened. Inferring from the facts, the most likely outcome would have been that the WPP hardliners would have come down even more heavily, made their position even stronger, and used whatever means they had in their power to stop the bhikkhuni ordination. They’re upset because they missed their chance.

It’s all about power, my friends, it’s all about power.

51 thoughts on “Statement from Wat Pa Nanachat

  1. I just got off the phone with a dear friend who’s a monk at a WPP branch monastery in Thailand. He is a very avid bhikkhuni supporter, and was even at the June 2009 meeting/conference at WPP. For many of us, the current hard feelings are difficult to witness. I don’t like seeing monks disparaging each other as they are. That said, I’m glad that the decision to ordain the bhikkhunis was taken and acted upon. It’s forced a discussion that others would rather have never happened. As my friend mentioned to me, it’s important that this discussion continue—and this is why we ultimately must be sure not to turn our backs on each other. Otherwise, the sexists will have won.

  2. Thank you again Bhante, for making wise readings of the situation available to the lay Theravadan community and beyond.

    This situation is one of greatest concern to me, and has shaken my previous understanding that the worldwide lineage of a wise and accomplished teacher such as Venerable Ajahn Chah should be deserving of generous support simply because it is practicing in that lineage.

    My new understanding is that I should be more wise with my lay support of monastics. I will ask them their views, for I now know they hold very fixed views and wield them strongly.

    And, I will not provide dana to monastics who prevent others from practicing as they do, just because they are women. I will not support a sangha that doesn’t support Bhikkhunis.

  3. Where do the ‘five points’ come from, Bhante? This sounds a very unenlightened step for our European sangha to take….

    • Dear Ajahn.

      My name is Kim from South KOREA.

      Having tried a couple of meditation centers in Thailand asto a retreat.
      All of them failed to come up with my expectations.

      It is my last wish to try and staying in the Pah Nanachat.

      Cutting to the chase, How can I get in touch with Wat Pah Nanachat ?
      It would take a long time before getting an anwer if mailed to the temple.
      ( don’t have many days to stay in Bangkok)

      Pls, adivse me on this matter.

      The sooner, The better.

      KIM

    • How can one who teaches the Dhamma of the Lord Buddha, with clear and articulate reference to the original suttas be “too popular for the good of everyone and everything”? What else is Ajahn Brahm supposed to do, just be dry and dull, and bang on about Dukkha all the time? I say, the more popular Ajahn becomes, the better the world will be for hearing the true teachings of a wise monk who comprehends so well the Buddha-vacana.

  4. Hi, I have full support for the Bikkhuni ordination. I understand that many people have felt hurtful by what is happening now. But I am also very concern about the degree of emotions and hurt that I can sense. I feel that if we are true supporter of the buddha, dhamma and sangha, lets take this opportunity to practice compassion to all beings including the monks that excommunicated Ajahn Brahm. Their decison might not be what we agree with. But lets not let this results in anger amongst us. There have been a lot of good deeds performed by these monks. I don’t know them personally because I have always been a follower of Ajahn Brahm. I felt that no one is perfect and it is not fair to judge any of the monk just base on this decision. If this is what we are doing, it is equivalent to condemning a person to hell or heaven, which is contradictory to what a true buddhist believe. If we believe that this is the right decision to ordain the Bhikkuni and if we have full support for Ajahn Brahm’s action, lets show our support using the 8 fold paths….metta to all.

    • My sentiments exactly, KK!

      I, too, am wary of the whole situation and feel it important to be more objective, to distance myself and be more restrained in my judgment of others, and of the situation as a whole. I feel we need to proceed carefully, and also with more care, with more caring. There’s so much involved here, it’s really hard to take apart and understand. I genuinely hope for proper dialogue and a peaceful acceptance of the bhikkhuni ordination, and must admit that I dread thinking that things may get blown out of proportion to the point where even dialogue becomes impossible. BUT if that happens (it seems like it has started happening, to a degree), well, then we’ll have to deal with that as wisely and as peacefully as we can. And I feel we CAN do that. Expulsion doesn’t have to be “The End” as we may imagine it to be. It may even be for the better. I’m not advocating anything, my only point is that we should LEAVE IT OPEN. This may just be a temporary conflict that will melt away as time goes on. We don’t have all the facts. The facts keep changing. As each of us contributes, the situation is taking new form – so we should be careful, and caring. Who knows what will happen tomorrow? Tonight? We can only attend to the present moment. This is like a so-called ‘bad’ meditation! These things are bound to happen. But we attend to these moments patiently nevertheless, without rejecting, without judging, without discriminating – and we attend with metta. Because what else can we really do? We can’t change the world. But the world doesn’t have to be our limit.

      It’s hard to know when and how much to push forward, and when to hold back. But certainly everyone is doing the best they can, given their responsibilities, and Ajahn Sujato’s sole intention in posting this blog is to keep us informed (because there is a lack of information for the lay community and that information is sometimes hard to decipher), and to provide a place where we may freely discuss, inquire, or contribute if we have good advice about how we, collectively and individually, can meet this situation in the most wholesome way. We may not fully accomplish our ideals, but we certainly still must aim for them! This is a great place for us to give voice to that, to shoot for the highest and to share that with others.

      As arunalikhati wrote, ” … the current hard feelings are difficult to witness. I don’t like seeing monks disparaging each other as they are. That said, I’m glad that the decision to ordain the bhikkhunis was taken and acted upon. It’s forced a discussion that others would rather have never happened. As my friend mentioned to me, it’s important that this discussion continue—and this is why we ultimately must be sure not to turn our backs on each other. Otherwise, the sexists will have won.”

      I don’t think it’s just about gender. Or any one thing in particular. It seems to be the whole weight and momentum of “The Way Things Have Been Done” that’s hard to push over, hard to change. We all know what that’s like in our own life, in our own practice – how stubborn and sticky old habits are, how difficult to uproot, how difficult to even see clearly!

      Doesn’t it say somewhere that the world contends with the Buddha, but the Buddha does not contend with the world? Actually, what’s happening is completely normal and to be expected. I put it down as part of what I see to be an organic Growing Process, and the tension felt is a growing pain. May we not be too startled or put off by it – it’s just par for the course!

      I am confident that the bhikkhunis and bhikkhus who are caught in the middle of all this will only come through this challenge having gained much skill, depth in wisdom, and good kamma, whatever the ‘end’ result. And may the rest simply roll off their backs like drops of water on the lotus flower, without burdening them. The world, even the religious world, is full of conflict. And what the Buddha repeatedly taught is how to resolve conflict effectively, wisely, and compassionately – so that we can get on with the real work we have to do. So there is nothing to fear, we are well equipped, so let us use the equipment well! May this apparent conflict not squash our faith in the Buddha’s teachings and our good-will towards each other, but only serve to renew, revitalize, and refresh our faith and good-will. And may it inspire us to each continue to do our part by practicing the Noble Eight-Fold Path, to its end, while we have the opportunity.

      May all beings grow towards the light, and be ever well and protected by the Dhamma.

      With abundant metta & gratitude to Ajahn Brahm, Ajahn Sujato, and all the rest of you, for providing this wonderful opportunity.

      May there be peace.

  5. If we get angry at this, we dishonour Ajahn Braham and his teachings. I guess this is another case of impermemance. I believe we should all do loving kindness towards the monks who excommunicated Ajahn Braham (I bet thats what Ajahn Braham Would do), and ofcourse towards Ajahn Braham himself.

    I believe we are all wise enough to choose our own path and the teachers we follow. We all know the wisdom of Ajahn Brahams teachings, so I ask you why dwell on the fact that Ajahn has been excommunicated when we can continue to practice what Ajahn Braham has taught and continue to provide danna to all monks and nuns alike.

    I do disagree with the decision even though I do believe that things just happen.

    A quick question though, does this mean he is no longer the abbot at Serpentine?

    • Ajahn Brahm is still the abbot at Bodhinyana. His leadership there is governed by the BSWA and its constitution, not by Thai religious or secular laws. The WPP sangha leaders can no more sack Ajahn Brahm from his position than they can sack Barack Obama from being President of the USA.

    • Sorry, don’t buy that, Bro Michael(ungrateful statement).

      Ajahn Brahm was legally ordained in the Thai Forest Monastery (Wat Pa Pong aka WPP) by the late Ajarn Chah under the Thai theravada tradition in Thailand and not by the Australian Government.

      Don’t make WPP stupid.

      Ajarn Brahm used the Ajarn Chah reputation & teachings & meditation to establish his monastery in Perth and claim to be his own teachings & method.The fact is he is still Ajarn Chah’s disciple not Lord Buddha’s disciple as he now claims to be (Lord Buddha did not ordanined Ajarn Brahm, he practiced Lord Buddha’s path & follow his teachings patiently taught by the late Ajarn Chah). How can that changed now? How can Ajarn Brahm not admit he is Ajahn Chah’s disciples while he took refuge in Wat Pa Pong? Who took care of him in Thailand??? (definitely not his mum or Australian Govt or Australian Buddist Association?) It’s sick to hear that (make us all want to phew, for this ungrateful statement and Ajarn Brahm’s attitude now for his ungratefulness & arrogance).

      Very suspicious about the Bikkunis ordination (it is all about politics,power and big money). Isn’t IT?

    • Dear Grrr,

      No, the ordination had nothing to do with politics, power or big money. It’s to do with supporting the spiritual aspirations of women who wish to live the Dhamma-Vinaya in its fullness.

      The only reason politics got involved is when some monks used the politics to stop bhikkhuni ordination. Don’t take my word for this, look at what has happened. It is the Thai Sangha authorities that used police and politics to disrobe the women in 1928. It was WPP that banned bhikkhunis and expelled Ajahn Brahm while citing a legal precedent. In our acts and discussions, we have based ourselves entirely on the Dhamma-Vinaya and our sense of ethics, and have only brought up the legal issues in response to the power plays initiated by the anti-bhikkhuni party.

      FYI, Ajahn Brahm was ordained in Bangkok, with Somdet Buddhajahn as his preceptor. He went to stay with Ajahn Chah after his ordination. When he asked the Somdet about bhikkhuni ordination, the reply was that there no objection to doing it overseas.

      Please understand what is happening. Mature individuals are making choices about how they wish to live their lives. We all do it. Think about your parents: have you always done exactly what they wanted? If you have done something else, was that because you disrespected them, and had no gratitude for what they have given you? Of course not: it has nothing to do with this. Any good parent knows that their children will grow up and will make their own choices. This is why, in the response of Somdet Buddhajahn, he reminded us that Ajahn Brahm is a senior and respected monk who is doing what he thinks is right. Even if we disagree, we have no right to stop him.

      This attitude is explicitly modeled in the Vinaya. The Vinaya has no power of command by one monk, or group of monks, over another, except in the case of certain disciplinary infractions which do not apply here. The senior monks should be regarded as ‘worth listening to’, not to be obeyed. We have respectfully listened to the senior monks for many years, discussed, debated, and researched their views, and in the end we disagree with them. We cannot in all moral conscience continue to deny equality to women because of the views of some monks. Even a junior monk in the Vinaya should disobey their preceptor if what he teaches is not Dhamma-Vinaya. How much more so a senior monk, when he is not disobeying his preceptor!

      Obedience is a virtue in Christianity, not in Buddhism. Every reform in religion comes when some people recognize the injustices and corruptions in their religion, and makes bold acts to change it.

  6. This is karma waiting to happen: an orthodox lineage would have been challenged in a positive sense on some of its outdated tenets. As karma would roll: present anti-bhukkhinis monks would engender being pro-bhukkhinis nuns in their next lifetime!

  7. Dear Ajahn Sujato

    I am confused by a number of points you made, but I will restrict myself to the last section.
    Here are, I believe, two facts:
    Ajahn Brahm agreed to host a meeting in Perth in which the bhikkhuni question was on the agenda.
    In the meantime he arranged the bhikkhuni ordination for a date two months before the meeting, concealing it from the WPP Sangha until a week before it took place.

    The reasons you give for this are that
    1. Prevous discussions by the WPP Sangha have gone nowhere.
    2. The proposal that the bhikkhuni question be included in the December meeting was made by a monk opposed to bhikkhuni ordination
    3. The Sangha in England ‘imposed Five Points’ on the Siladharas

    I can understand your inference that given these facts a decision in favour of bhikkhuni ordination in the meeting was unlikely
    I cannot however see why they explain the hurry (what difference would another couple of months have made?) and the secrecy?

    You conclude that its all about power and control.
    This point is not clear to me. What power could WPP exert over Ajahn Brahm?

    Also, one last question. You repeatedly refer to the Five Points being ‘imposed upon’ the siladharas in England. Is that how the siladharas themselves see it, or is that your own interpretation?

    Thank you for your patience.

    • Dear Ajahn Sujato,

      I am certainly supportive of anyone, irregardless of sex, race, nationality or past deeds, who has a sincere heart to want to ordain and walk the Buddha’s path.

      I’ve been trying to follow the details, listening to both side of the story, and trying to understand what actually took place. I have similar question as Siamdham.

      Ajahn, could you provide us with more information?

      with metta

    • Dear Concern,

      I’ve put up as much as I can, please let me know if there’s anything specific I can help you with.

      cheers

      Bhante Sujato

    • “I cannot however see why they explain the hurry (what difference would another couple of months have made?) and the secrecy?”

      That’s a good question.

      “You conclude that its all about power and control.
      This point is not clear to me. What power could WPP exert over Ajahn Brahm?”

      Also a good question.

      “Also, one last question. You repeatedly refer to the Five Points being ‘imposed upon’ the siladharas in England. Is that how the siladharas themselves see it, or is that your own interpretation?”

      Also also a good question.

      >j<

    • Dear Siamdham,

      Thanks so much for your questions, you’ve touched on a number of points that I will try to address as best I can.

      Regarding your point two, the fact that Ajahn Kevali had proposed discussing bhikkhunis was not a reason why the ordination was done early. Actually, this was just a little-known detail that someone noticed on a fax while I was at Bodhinyana. I made that point, rather, to show that the mere fact that bhikkhunis were up for discussion at the WAM did not mean that there was going to be a positive movement. In fact, there seems little doubt that Kevali’s proposal was precisely in order to harden and reinforce the WPP position. Perhaps if the WAM had gone ahead in Bodhinyana, they would have pressed for a ruling to mandate expulsion for any monastery that does bhikkhuni ordination. Such a decision could not have been made, of course (since the WAM is ‘not a decision making body’), but they may well have proposed that it be brought up at the WPP meetings in January, or more likely in June. I am not trying to argue that this was in fact the case, or that this would have happened. I am merely pointing out that there were many possible outcomes of the WAM in December, and most of them would not be bright.

      Another point to notice is that this year, for the first time, Ajahn Liem, the head of WPP was to be present at the WAM. The whole point of the WAM is for the Western monks to meet, and his presence would completely change the dynamic. It would be very hard to go against him, and most of the monks present would speak no Thai.

      It is not as if Ajahn Liem is a hard-core anti-bhikkhuni monk. Ajahn Liem is a beloved monk, and in my own discussion with him he expressed no objections to bhikkhuni ordination. He said that bhikkhunis should practice the same as the bhikkhus, and that in the Buddha’s day the bhikkhus and bhikkhunis wore the same robes. He asked if I had done it in Australia yet, and when I said not yet he didn’t react. (He doesn’t react to most things!) I informed him that Somdet Buddhajahn had said there was no legal objection to bhikkhuni ordination outside Thailand, to which he replied ‘thammada’ – ‘that’s natural’. He did say that nothing could be done in Thailand, as it had been this way ‘since the beginning’.

      So I don’t believe he is pushing an anti-bhikkhuni agenda, although no doubt he would prefer to keep things orthodox. Nevertheless, there is little doubt that his presence there was intended to shift the weight of the WAM back towards Thailand and the old ways of doing things.

      And again, I hope I was not misleading, but I did not mean to imply that the ordination was done early because of the 5 points. None of us knew anything about these.

      Ajahn Brahmali has explained more about why the decision was made to do the ordination early. Remember I was not involved in those discussions, so he would know more than me on this point.

      As to the power that WPP could exert over Bodhinyana, well there might be various sorts. They might make a formal complaint to the Mahatherasamakhom and ask for his Chao Khun title or upajjhaya status to be revoked (of course, these are purely ceremonial). They might threaten expulsion (remember that before the ordination there was no talk of expulsion for doing bhikkhuni ordination). They might make a concerted effort to get monks to lobby Ajahn Brahm. They might exert pressure through the lay followers (although they would get little traction there). What else? I bet with a bit of imagination we could come up with all kinds of things…

      Finally, re the five points: From all reports I have heard, the siladhara were horrified at the 5 points – I can’t imagine any other reaction. They only accepted them because they were threatened to be expelled or to have no more ordinations.

  8. Dear Bhante,
    Thanks again for keeping us informed–as an educator, I read all this and think of Louis Althusser’s essay “Ideology and the State Apparatus.” Clearly the elders at WPP are benefitting from and clinging to Thai law on behalf of their own priviledge. While this is a tried and true tactic (see Paulo Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed), one would hope for at least a teensy bit more enlightened action from supposed spiritual leadership.

    And the Five Points coming from Aj Sumedho et al…now this leaves me speechless. I now wonder if the high regard in which I’ve held him for so long has been completely misplaced.

    It’s a sad day for the lineage of Aj Chah.

    With respect and gratitude,
    Sarana

    • Sarana,

      I don’t think your high regard and respect has been misplaced.

      First, we can’t personally verify the whole story so it’s best to be more objective about EVERYTHING we read and hear, not to jump to conclusions about anything or anyone, because I don’t think it’s very helpful for us to (mis)judge anyone based on ONE decision he or she makes. Just as I feel others shouldn’t judge Ajahn Brahm for this one decision, nor should we judge those opposed to it, just because they disagree. It’s just ONE decision! One tiny fraction of a human being, whose mind we cannot encompass. The truth is we simply do not know! It’s so easy to let ONE incident color the way we see things, sometimes for a whole life time! Ajahn Brahm always says, “What you see in the other person is what grows in them”. This became very evident to him when he taught in prisons. Instead of relating to prisoners as criminals, he related to them with kindness, forgiveness, and love – as worthy human beings. And it worked: those who went to his classes never returned to prison, they were freed for good. In just the same way, we can surely offer the WPP Sangha freedom from ‘judgment’ – doesn’t matter if they’re actions are justified, that’s really not the point! It’s not what we GET that’s important, but what we put out, what we GIVE to each situation. Maybe that’s too ideal, but I deeply and sincerely believe that with all of my heart. I am a female who wants to ordain!

      As Ajahn Brahm said, making a decision is only PART of the process, the rest is HOW YOU FOLLOW THROUGH with your decision. Disagreement on this one issue (bhikkhuni ordination) does not invalidate the Dhamma that the WPP Sangha has to provide! Who knows, if we do make this work wonderfully and support the bhikkhunis and their community flourishes, the WPP Sangha may eventually even show some approval! WHY NOT leave this possibility open?

      This incident, this ‘rejection’, or ‘expulsion’ (whatever you’d like to call it) is only as big and as painful as we make it out to be. I feel it’s best just to take it as it is, and not to make a huge ordeal out of it, not to embellish it with too much emotion, as is so easy to do, because it only puts on strain on everything and everyone. Certainly, WPP’s decision may have been a shock to many of us (I was shocked) but I’m quite sure that for Ajahn Brahm & those on the ‘inside’, it was to be expected. I, for one, know that I had naive expectations, and so, like many others, I may have felt let down. But may the frustration of our expectations not diminish our respect for others!

      Ajahn Brahm said it himself, “You can’t please everyone.” So it is with the WPP Sangha, they can’t please everyone. This is all very normal, it’s just that we hope, and sometimes expect, the spiritual life to be free from all such disappointments. Actually, we have a lot of expectations – even if they are ‘right’ and justifiable, they are still expectations. But the WPP, or any organization, is just made up of people. People doing what they feel is best given their duties and situation, and given all the internal and external factors that have shaped their being. This is not to deny their responsibility as providers of spiritual leadership, but they are only human beings, like us.

      None of us make the perfect decisions. But we can work hard to follow through with them and make it work. That’s what counts, and that’s how we can succeed. Making a decision is only the seed. Now the task at hand is to nurture this seed so that it may grow into a beautiful, strong, fruitful tree, providing the cool shade and sweet fruit of the Dhamma for many, in the East & West. I think it’s possible, don’t you?

      Conflicts, even the worst of them, eventually pass and are forgotten.

      Yes, always with respect & gratitiude ~

  9. I’ve read the statement and it seems that they were expecting Ajahn Brahm to go his own way. Bit hard to run the idea that the Bhikkhuni ordinations were a secret when they state that had he done this post-WAM then there would have been honour in his departure.
    I think that knowing that Kevali et al were stalling and would keep stalling indefinetly AB decided to simply do it and to hell with the consequences. They acknowledge that AB will have an increase in popularity and has been reducing his ties to the WPN Sangha for a while.

  10. It is marvellous news ~ breaking power blocks always results in this sort of action and I am very happy to see it happen.

    What would the Buddha have said about it all?

  11. The gist of this document, as far as I can see, is that the monks of the WPP are not against bhikkhuni ordination but just did not agree with the way it was conducted or simply Ajahn Brahm has been a ‘naughty boy’. Obviously it implies that bhikkhuni ordination should have waited till all the suns and the moons of the universe aligned themselves sometime in the future.

    The claims made in the statement go totally against all the evidence put forward by Bhante Sujato (I thought the use of Thai word Ajahn is no longer appropriate!!) elsewhere in this blog.

    Unless and until the WPP monks can come up with hard evidence to show that Bhante Sujato’s evidence is false, the statement of the WPP monks is just a cover up or simply a cop out.

    One good monk once told me that the problem of not telling the truth is one eventually has to come up with more lies to cover up the first false statement and this statement is a good testimony for that – again unless real evidence is made available by WPP.

    Even at this stage, if the monks of WPP were to come out with a statement saying that they do not support bhikkhuni ordinations, most people will respect them for their honesty although many will be disappointed with this position.

    As it is this statement from WPP, which simply ‘beats around the bush’ and points the blame on ‘naughty’ Ajahn Brahm is, put simply, PATHETIC.

    PS. I also note that Bodhinyana has already been taken out of the list in the Forest Sangha website – that was quick!

    Viva Australian Forest Sangha Tradition!!

    • I snatched a web archive shot of the website when it still had Bodhinyana on it, just for keepsake.🙂

      From the perspective of organisational dynamics, I might have been quite sympathetic to WNPP’s actions, if the exclusion/expulsion motion was initiated and passed by the majority of the monks. After all, it took many years for the monastic centre in Bangkok to even accept AC Chah is a legitimate practitioner. It was a hard-won acceptance, and WNPP has undoubted brand equity and market cache in the Thai monastic scene; any other organisation would succumb to the instinct to preserve that position in the Thai psyce.

      I think if the collective majority of Thai monks felt that WNPP is now an exemplary Thai institution first, before it is a sangha, then I can’t really blame them for the expulsion order, even if it means being blind to the following –

      (i) has there been any definitive Mahatherasamakom ruling that bans bhikkhuni ordination in Thailand;
      (ii) if so, does the Thai Sangha Act and ruling made thereunder have extra-territorial effect on overseas “Thai” missionaries?

      I thought the only international law applicable in such cases is the Vinaya?

    • It takes a few deep breaths and a considerable capacity for suspension of disbelief, but let’s face it ladies and gents of the four-fold assembly, this whole kefuffle comes from the staggering levels of ignorance about what is Dhamma and what is Vinaya within the Buddhist community and – depressingly – within the (monastic) Sangha in particular.

      It’ll take a while to digest this fact, but once we do, the storm in the tea-cup will settle, and we will all move on just a little wiser.

      And, hopefully, the Sutta and Vinaya Pitakas will start giving Dan Brown a run for his money.

      >j<

  12. You and the nuns are better off out, mate. Well done.

    You’ve also performed a valuable service in flushing out these misogynists. The fact that Sumedho is one has really shocked me, but I’m glad to have found out. Sometimes the internet is a wonderful thing.

    These people are just going to get left behind.

    • Like most things in life, it is a double edged sword. The internet could have easily disseminated false and inaccurate information much faster than accurate and true information.

      Your response is certainly one not based on an accurate and well-informed position and this is no doubt due to the internet.

  13. All the rhetoric aside, I would like Wat Pa Nanachat to declare openly if they are in support or against Bhikkuni Ordination, period.

    • When Buddha first started teaching he had no intention of including female into the order. Many of the practices and vinaya were designed towards “desirelessness”. The taking of 1 meal a day would have that effect to lay the foundation for long term practice of desirelessness. Having female, even in separate living quarters, would be like bringing fuel to a “dying flame”.

      When Buddha accepted female into the order he deliberately created “unfairness” or separation in accordance with the tradition of his time. There is thus physical and psychological separation. This separation was not for the monks to lord over the nuns.

      At the end of the day and I supposed the prime concern of Buddha was the practice. He had laid out a spiritual practice for the monks and at the same time did not leave out the lay people. A female practitioner could easily gain enlightenment by practising what was taught and not necessarily within the context of a monastry.

      Buddha was against female ordination for its effect on the practice he had formulated. Buddha did not object to female ordination after imposing certain condition. When bhikkuni ordination is good given a set of conditions and not as ideal in another how would an open declaration of for or against be of any use or promote clarity ?

    • Dear Sleeping Beauty,

      Please remember that any idea or theory that the Buddha ‘didn’t want’ women to ordain depends on a particular reading of texts that are over 2000 years old, which have evolved and changed greatly over that time, and which can be read in many different ways. We don’t know what really happened, and can’t pretend to read the Buddha’s mind. As the Charter for Compassion says: ‘any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate’.

  14. That report from WPP is the biggest load of crap I’ve ever seen. That reminds me of closed directives from Theistic relgions or government legislation. The audacity to expect the world must abide by “the Thai state” is the greatest delusion I’ve read from a “buddhist” source. Words like “elite” disgust me in Buddhism. Whoever wrote that crap knows nothing about the Buddha’s teachings.
    My wife is a Christian and she said “that’s what other religions are doing. I thought your lot were smarter than that”.
    The Australian Sangha is an Australian Sangha, not a Thai Sangha. It is irrelevant where a monk/nun was trained: it is how he/she exercises his/her training that matters. Should we care about what a bunch of deluded fools think?
    Viva Aussie Sangha and viva fully ordained bikkhunis!
    I practise the 8 fold path and maintain the 5 precepts to the best of my ability, but if I was there with the BSWA pres and Ajahn Brahm, I would have had a few choice words for that lot.
    Just because you are a buddhist doesn’t mean you’re a door mat.

  15. I don’t know who wrote it, but I personally don’t like the sentence: Ajahn Brahmavamso is unlikely to be adversely affected by the exclusion. His reputation and fund-raising activities may well be enhanced.

    I feel really sad to see this sentence written by a monk.

    After listeing to hundreds of his talks, I attended a retreat that he led and I am convinced that I have finally found a Buddhist monk who can help me find the Path.

    How many monks can make us feel that way?

  16. foong :
    Is Ajahn Brahm too popular for the good of everyone and everything ? (I profess I am his ardent follower)

    I fear so, now, today, learning of this debacle. How could he otherwise have taken a decision to act so defiant to his lineage while being within it, knowing that this would cause sanga dissention, and secreteively to make matters worse. In the least they culd ahve waited 6 weeks, and have left the lineage, and gone on more openely, serenely, with crystal clarity…
    Oh Ajahn Brahm, what have you done to yourself, and to your own practice?
    It is a very very sad day for Ajahn Brahm followers of which I was one sadly till now.

  17. Kaushi,

    have you read Ajahn Brahmali’s response, explaining why the decision was made to proceed with the ordinations, before the WAM? When you consider also that the 5 points had already been imposed upon the siladharas in U.K. – which effectively prohibits bhikkhuni ordination within the Amaravati/Chithurst branches of the AC lineage. How could Ajahn Brahm have known the hardline, anti-bhikkhuni monks would kick up such a stink? His position on bhikkhunis has been clear for several years now. Ajahn Brahm even organised a Thai translation of Bhikkhu Bodhi’s paper on bhikkhunis, which was distributed among the Sangha heirarchy of WPP. So, no matter how tentatively this matter was approached, with what we know now, the consequences would have been the same (perhaps with a little less drama).

  18. Ven. Ajhans, to many lay followers there is a mystery why women are not to be ordained. Would it not be good to expound the Buddha’s reason for not allowing women to be ordained, until Ananda pleaded after which the Buddha relented but subject to certain conditions.

    I strongly believe there are extremnely good and valid reasons why women was not encouraged to live the homeless life. To all Venerables Ajhans, in this tumultous time and mnodern age of thinking man, it is necessary for you the seniors monks to expound that dharma and explain clearly the reasons, since time and age has changed since Buddha’s nirvanna, I believe such rules can also change for the better. Just as Lord Buddha had preached in the Kalama Sutta examin thoroughly, accept the good and discard the bad, do not listen to hearsay, traditions, or simply just because he/she is the senior/advance in age. Find it out yourself and experience it before making a final decision, surely these words still applies in this age of time.

    • Dear Alan,

      Much ink has been spilt on the topic you mention, if you hunt around you can find a variety of interpretations. No-one, of course, knows what actually happened, or can read the Buddha’s mind…

      But for the record, the expulsion of Ajahn Brahm did not depend on any theories about the formation of the bhikkhuni order. It was because the ordination contradicted the rules laid down by WPP.

  19. I’ve read the statements on the dhammalight website and am feeling bad. I know it is useless to think about the water under the bridge, but I really can’t help wanting to know why some monks are very aggressive towards Ajahn Brahm. Is it about the different dhamma principles or something personal?

    Ajahn Sujato, you don’t have to go into details if it’s something personal. Just tell us that it is if it is; then, we all will know that the vinaya or rules and regulations are quoted simply to justify their actions against Ajahn Brahm, not to enlighten us about the Buddha’s teachings!

    • Hi Dheerayupa,

      For sure there are a lot of personal issues involved – aren’t there always? But there’s a big difference between a position worked out with a careful balance of reason and compassion, and the reaction that this ordination has thrown up. Legalisms don’t get people this excited.

  20. Just to add that I’ve read both Thai and English versions. So, I clearly understand what is written and the unmistakable interpretation of the statements!

  21. Dear Ajahn Sujato,

    If some of the monks’ actions regarding Ajahn Brahm’s involvement in this ordination were based on their personal feelings towards Ajahn Brahm, then what is badly needed here and now is ‘Acknowledge and Forgive and Learn’.

    Acknowledge that though trying hard to attain enlightenments, they are not yet fully enlightened and are still under the influence of the ten fetters.

    So, we should Forgive them. We ourselves, during our lifetime, have done so many unwholesome things. Practice compassion towards others as well as ourselves.

    Learn from this sad episode of life so that we can grow spiritually…

  22. Dear Ajahn Brahm,

    You know you have a sea of supporters from Singapore,Malaysia & Thailand since you started your Dhammaduta tours in Asia.We were those who supported you 100% & who donated 4-figure of our hard earn salaries for your building fund in Perth.

    Each time you come to our country, all your supporters worked so hard to raise enough funds for you to bring back for your good cause in Perth, by the hundreds of thousands each time.

    We also remember that, when come to Dana for you, Ajarn, the food overflowed the table and all of us competed to cook and buy your favourite food and most of us ladies took leave from work to offer dana to you and went to the extent to buy or cook the best fish & chips that you like & miss so much, so much so that sometimes you have four or five dishes of fish & chip on the table every day.That was how popular you were when you came to Asia countries, because of your humourous Dhamma & your easy going approachable personality that made you our Dhamma celebrity!

    We are all shock, disbelief, disappointed and hurt that you have chosen to proceed with the bikkunis ordination in secrecy without any formal approval from your Seniors in Thailand and unanimous consent of other Sangha. Ajahn, were you carried away by your superiority complex?

    We are saddened that you seem to have forgotten your Dhamma roots in Asia and your Teacher and where you came from.You have also forgotten the amount of donations that came from Asians, who supported you to build your retreat centre in Perth.

    You were overwhelmed by fame, busy schedules,fund raising & power and this undefiled sincere forest monk from Thailand has now been defiled by ego(delusion)and arrogance because it is about from poverty to celebrity.

    We really feel hurt, sad and deceived, just like WPP.You have broke our hearts just like you broke the hearts of the monks in Forest Sangha. We do not have the heart to listen to your Dhamma or offer dana anymore, as you have betrayed our trust. We hope you could reverse our feelings to continue supporting you.

    Wishing your mum get well soon and may you find the strength to overcome all your difficulties.Mega Metta from us.Sokhihotu.

    • Dear Asian Supporter,

      If AB had waited until the WAM meeting in 4 weeks who knows what would happen. It is also possible that Bhikkhuni ordination will not get to see the light of day for a long time, if ever.

      We have discussed about the 4 weeks previously in anotherforum. I’ll post it again below:

      There was already a meeting at WPP in June deciding to ban bhikkhuni ordination.

      Let’s just assume that WPP also intends to approve Bhikkhuni ordination at this meeting in 4 weeks ( WAM). It shouldn’t be a such a big deal that someone does it a little bit early.I am wondering about the reason behind the harsh decision to excommnunicate when someone is merely doing something that they are planning to. Is this just an excuse ?

      Personally, I feel that Bhikkhuni Ordination is very needed and has been long over due. How long must these women wait? I am pretty sure if AB waited just 4 weeks as some had suggested. Another waiting period will be announced at the meeting. Who knows how long that period will be. How long must they wait. If it is proper, if it is necessary, then let’s get it done with. I believe many are very wary of further excuses and delay.

      P.S. AB already got excommunicated because of this 4 weeks . I feel that it is enough punishment for just doing it a few weeks early.

    • It would be respectful if you “us”, whoever authored this statement, signed the letter under your own name(s). Please take some responsibility for your words. Otherwise, right-minded people will think that this is just a fraudulent, malicious email. Looking forward to some moral courage here. Thanks.

  23. Dear Grrrr,

    Please understand that all AB did was trying to provide equal opportunity for women to practice the Noble Eightfold Path. The other disciples of Ajahn Chah turned their backs on him because of this noble action. Ajahn Brahm still wishes that things are the same with all his friends in WPP.

    Both Ajahn Brahm and the other monks in WPP are disciples of Ajahn Chah. The other disciples are not Ajahn Chah himself, but merely fellow disciples. WPP monks doesn’t have to act as if they are Ajahn Chah himself.

    Ajahn Chah, Ajahn Brahm, and all Buddhist monks are disciples of the Lord Buddha himself. All monks should upheld the Vinaya of the Lord Buddha.

  24. Dear Ajarn,

    The whole issue is, we are not anti-Bikkunis or challenge the Vinaya or you had to always obey not question (not in Kalama Sutta).

    It is about one’s principle and conscience. The whole world does not comprehend with the fact why the ordination had to be done in secrecy and hastily knowing that it has not been unanimously agreed by the overall Sangha (so unbuddhistic)and in view that you had a proper legitimate channel to pass the “Bill” in the coming WAM.Yes, there is democracy in the Sangha and Buddhism is very democratic and timeless, but do you think (with due respect) what had occurred was principally the right thing to do? (like running away to get married without your parent’s consent, in this case the Sangha – Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha – One Unit). Look at the disharmony caused as a result of the one defiance. We are shameful to be Buddhists now. Peace to you & all.God bless. D end.

    • Dear Grrrrr,

      Thanks once more for clarifying your objections. i have explained these things before, but not necessarily in the right place or the right way, so let me try again.

      First, the WAM (Western Abbots Meeting) is an informal gathering of senior western Ajahns from the Ajahn Chah tradition – no more, no less. It has no charter, no procedures, and by its own explicit and emphatic declaration, no decision making powers. It is quite impossible that any resolution could be reached there. At the very best of outcomes, one could imagine a gentleman’s agreement to part ways amicably.

      More likely, Ajahn Brahm would have been pressured to delay the ordination until the following June meetings at WPP, which are the only serious meetings with decision making power for the whole of WPP. In the interim, the Walters would have done all in their power to rouse up opposition to bhikkhunis. Have a look at their website, and ask yourself whether that seems like a reasonable assumption. Ask yourself whether the kinds of people who lie behind that portal are likely to have simply agreed to let Ajahn Brahm go ahead and do bhikkhuni ordination.

      You say this act was like running away to get married without the parents’ consent. Yes, exactly: just like the Buddha. He crept away from home, in secret, without consulting anyone, though his mother and father wept with tears running down their faces. Not because he wanted to disobey or disrespect his parents, but because he knew that it was the right thing to do.

      And again, you raise the issue of doing things with a unified Sangha. This is a lovely dream, but the reality is that there hasn’t been a unified Sangha for over 2000 years. The Sangha is rent and splintered by all sorts of divisions. WPP itself is a highly exclusive organization, which generally treats monks from outside as second class citizens. Most of the divisions in the Sangha are caused by petty rivalries, historical anomalies, politics, or money – as referred to in the new article by Sanitsuda. At least this one is caused by something meaningful – trying to give women a fair go at last.

      Buddhism has been in Thailand for about 1000 years or more, and there is hardly any evidence that the mainstream Sangha has done anything at all in that time to provide a meaningful renunciate option for women. The debate on bhikkhunis has been a major feature of international Buddhism for two decades now, and mainstream Thai Buddhism simply ignores it. Things aren’t likely to change any time soon.

  25. If women were meant to be in the sangha as bhikkhunis, then following the law of karma, they would have been born as a man to fulfil his holy path. During the Buddha’s time, he only allowed bhikkhunis after several requests from Ven. Ananda. The Buddha also predicted the end of the lineage of the Bhikkhunis 500 years after his parinibbana. Are those in favor of bhikkkhunis challenging the Lord Buddha’s prediction?

    I am not a male chauvinist, just a simple female trying the hardest to follow the teachings of our Lord Buddha. I will wait for my time for ordination in hopefully in another life when if and when I will be born as a man.

    • Dear Simplefacts,

      If you feel that you want to wait until the next rebirth as a man before ordaining, then you are free to do so. Regarding this sutra that you mentioned, we have discussed it in another post . I will repost an extract from Bhikkhu Analayo’s letter , in which he discussed this topic:

      “By way of foreword, allow me to propose that in approaching the scriptures of the Pāli canon for guidance and orientation, we need to be aware of the fact that this material is the final product of a prolonged period of oral transmission and thus may not always fully reflect the original.

      1 The possibility cannot a priori be excluded that views, which were not part of the original delivery of a discourse or a rule, could have influenced the canonical material as we have it now. This does not mean that the Pāli canon can no longer provide guidance and orientation. But it does mean that during the centuries of oral transmission, material that at first perhaps arouse in the form of a commentary (where the reciters would have felt free to express personal opinions) could have become part of what now is considered canonical.

      2

      Practically speaking, this means that instead of taking isolated passages on their own as invariably true, what is required is an awareness of the overall thrust of the canonical scriptures on a particular theme. Here an important criterion is consistency. Given that according to the discourses the Buddha himself presented consistency as a criterion of truth,

      3
      it would be reasonable to expect that the Buddha was coherent in his views. Furthermore, in order to evaluate single passages a comparative study of the same material transmitted by other early Buddhist schools can provide important perspectives, i.e. in particular the Vinayas and Āgamas preserved in Chinese and other languages.

      In the case of the attitude towards women, we find contradictory positions and thus a lack of consistency in the Pāli canon. One example is the account of the foundation of the order of nuns.

      4
      According to the Mahāparinibbāna-sutta,soon after his awakening the Buddha proclaimed that he would not pass away until he had nun disciples who are wise and learned.

      5
      From this it would follow that right from the outset he wanted to have an order of nuns. This impression is further supported by a closer perusal of the Pāli canon, which shows recurrent references to the importance of having four assemblies of disciples (monks, nuns, male and female lay followers) and to the significant contribution made by nuns to the prosperity and success of the Buddha’s dispensation. These passages stand in contrast to the impression created by the account of the foundation of the order of nuns, which reads as if the Buddha did not want to allow women to go forth.

      6
      A comparative study of this account in the different Vinayas, mainly extant in Chinese, shows clear signs of later addition and thus makes it probable that it does not accurately reflect the Buddha’s attitude.

      Another example would be a pair of discourses in the Aṅguttara-nikāya that compare women to black snakes, as both are dirty, smelly and betray friends etc.

      7
      Would it be reasonable and coherent for an awakened teacher to make such derogatory remarks about women, a teacher who according to other discourses had numbers of nun disciples that had reached full awakening and thus total freedom from any defilement,

      8
      who according to the same Aṅguttara-nikāya proclaimed various nuns and lay women as outstanding in qualities like deep concentration and profound wisdom,

      9
      and who apparently placed such trust in women that in a twin regulation found in all Vinayas he sanctioned acting on a trustworthy laywoman’s report about a monk’s breach of the rules?

      10
      The comparison of women to snakes recurs in two parallel versions: one in the Tibetan Vinaya, where a similar remark is headed by the qualification “some”, i.e. “some women are …”,

      11
      and another in a late text in Uighur, where this remark is not made by the Buddha, but rather by some Sakyan youths.

      12
      These two cases may already suffice for the time being to alert us to the possibility that gender discrimination in the Pāli canon may well be the result of later developments. Regarding the overall attitude towards nuns in early Buddhism, I think it stands beyond doubt that an order of nuns was in existence, and from that I would conclude that the Buddha approved of its existence.

      13
      To this we may add a range of passages that express a very positive attitude towards nuns and value their important contributions to the Dhamma.

      Now quite probably the Buddha adjusted to prevalent customs in ancient India – in wider society as well as in parallel traditions like the Jain order, which appears to already have had an order of nuns – by placing nuns in second position vis-à-vis monks. However, such positioning would have been dictated by circumstance, not being an expression of a principle endorsement of gender discrimination. In fact, I would hold that a discriminating attitude towards women in principle is incompatible with the freedom from defilement incumbent on reaching full awakening, where any prejudice based on caste, social standing, race or gender has been left behind.

      14

      In sum, it would seem to me that

      1.

      Individual passages reflecting a misogynist attitude among the canonical sources need to be approached with circumspection, comparing them with the general thrust of the Dhamma and Vinaya, and ideally studying them in the light of extant parallels.

      2.
      Regulations that express gender discrimination probably reflect the ancient Indian situation and would thus in principle be open to revision in a different setting, when Buddhism begins to flourish in a different environment and culture. Such revision is not against Dhamma and Vinaya, so it seems to me, but would rather express the pragmatic principle of adjusting to circumstances that is such a recurrent feature in the formation of rules as documented throughout the Vinaya. In the end, tradition – which I personally highly value – only stands a chance to survive if it is able to adjust to changing circumstances without loss of what is essential. This can come about if our appraisal of the situation is based on a clear awareness of what causes dukkha – for ourselves or others – and what leads to freedom from dukkha.

      Bhikkhu Anālayo “

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